OK In Health - Happy Holistic

Eating in Season - September 2018

How to Hibernate

By Alexis Costello, Kelowna, BC

natural fruits and vegetables

The term “seasonal eating” is sometimes tossed around these days in diet books and even on menus. The idea is that, for optimal health, we need to eat the foods that are available locally at each time of year. Is this a good idea? What is involved?

What we tend to forget is that up until a couple of generations ago, seasonal eating was the only way of eating. Without refrigeration and easy transport, you just couldn’t have bananas in the winter time, and that was that. As the weather turned colder, diets would consist of protein, whole grains, root vegetables, preserved fruits and fruits that keep well in a cold storage, such as apples.

In the winter months, many of us naturally start craving richer, warming foods. This can be explained by some of the basic principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. This system likes to keep everything in balance, as is illustrated by the concept of yin and yang. In the summer we are surrounded by a hot and dry yang environment, so in order to keep balance within the body we crave cooling yin foods: salads, fruits, water etc. In the winter however, the environment shifts to a cold and wet yin environment, so we need yang foods to keep balanced: soups, stews, tea etc.

Many of us will also put on a couple of pounds as we move through winter. This is also part of our body’s natural cycle if we eat seasonally. There is a bit of a hibernating reflex that is a part of our genetic heritage in cold countries such as Canada. Personally, I swear I’m half bear as I would happily stay in my cave from December through March. Historically, those who couldn’t handle the cold (i.e. who didn’t have enough body fat to keep warm), would not live long enough to pass on their genes. The average person gains two to six pounds during this time, which should (in theory) melt off in the spring when activity levels go up once again and the cells can safely release the stored energy.

Diet fads such as Atkins go against this intuitive wisdom by condemning starchy veggies such as potatoes, yams, carrots and sweet potatoes. Raw food diets, while very good for some people, are almost impossible to achieve when eating seasonally and will rely heavily on imported foods through the winter months.

Here is a very simple and quick recipe for a warming vegetarian stew. To soak lentils, simply place them in a shallow dish, cover with water, and leave overnight. Even leaving them for a couple of hours will help. This turns off the enzyme inhibitors present in many nuts, seeds and legumes and makes them much easier to digest. Enjoy!

Lazy Lentil Stew

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 small red potatoes, chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups soaked lentils
  • ½ cup peas
  • ½ cup corn
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • Black pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium low heat. Add the veggies as you chop them, stirring occasionally. Add the broth and the lentils, and bring to a boil. Add peas, corn, and spices and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.




Alexis CostelloAlexis's Bio: Alexis Costello is a natural health practitioner specializing in applied kinesiology, Bach Flower Remedies, massage and herbology. Her 'passion for plants' brought her and her family to Costa Rica for six months of adventure studying herbs in the rainforest; learning everything she could from 'curanderos', medicine men, shaman and the local folk medicine. Alexis also runs a fun integrated learning/healing centre called Happily Holistic in Kelowna, Okanagan, BC. Alexis Costello is a proud mommy to ten-year-old twins and a brand new baby. She wants to help other holistic mamas and kids to be their best in this wild world. In the ‘Parenting Tips’ column she write about children's health. Alexis formerly wrote a column on ‘Nutrition’ and "Wandering Herbalist" for OK in Health. - Alexis Costello Website - Email


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